Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Pre-Thanksgiving Warm-up

Well, haven' t I been the delinquent blogger?! 

But the tide returns...five days off to lollygag, overeat, and sleep in...they roll out before me like a summer beach.  Fingers flex, poised over the keyboard just bursting to be the courriers for the cascading thoughts that have sat idle too many months.  Now they must be channeled into coherence...books, poems, blogs…and I haven't had my first cup of coffee yet.  Eloquence may take a few days, and I'm wondering why I am even attempting it this early in the morning?!  

Because that’s what writers do.  Write their way into writing.  The spiritual practice of creating is as rigorous as the spiritual life.  And as easy.  'Always we begin again.’ says the Rule of Benedict--that’s what writers and monks do.

Today is a day to begin again.  It has been a long dry spell, in no way except writing, which has unfortunately taken a back seat to Life.  Rude Life.  Now as we sit poised on the brink of Thanksgiving, that uniquely American holiday, our heads spin, our souls are whipped by Rude Life, wallets (if not camping gear!) are at the ready  for Black Friday, to spend--fiscal cliff be damned. 

Hurricane Sandy has ripped through so many boatyards and clamshacks, I can't write about that.  I'm so sorry for the damage to people and some of my favorite places, for the remapping of Long Island, Staten Island and New Jersey, to name only 3 disaster areas.  Hurricane Sandy intruded on my life only in that family members live in its trajectory; many nights normally given to writing went to phone calls, and the news. 

Elections chewed up too much time.  I think I wrote a poem once about elections...We won't go there. 

I struggled with my own fiscal cliff, in a year with possibly the heaviest travel schedule I've had yet, on (too literally) a wing and a prayer; a year to live the age-old artist/writer challenge: produce! and keep the cash flow coming!  

About a year ago, I began the ancient monastic practice of Examen, a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day, in order to detect God’s presence in our lives, and discern his direction for us.  The goal is the “inward migration of the soul from slavery to freedom” (Tozer), to come out of denial of past pain, out of false views of ourselves, or how others have viewed us, and relinquish our fantasies about ourselves.   

Examen is neither self-examination nor the disease of introspection, but an honest dialogue between the soul and God, inviting him to come and review matters in our hearts.  there are plenty of feel-good gratitude exercises out there; skip the spiritual junkfood and go for the gusto:
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord.  (Isaiah 1:18) 

One of the questions in Examen is: what are you most grateful for today?  I honestly believe the best time to ask this is crashing into a pillow at night.  With lights out, head down, body sprawled, just before the lapse into that most blessed activity--sleep--what thoughts come to your mind?  When you can no longer fool anyone, when no one can see, no more role has to be played, or avoided, what bubbles up first? 

Probably the more spiritually robust among us could carve out a half hour or so from their evening and sit up straight to do this, but frankly, I find it much more conducive to lie down, head on pillow, pretend I'm asleep if I have to, and think about what I am most grateful for.  I have certainly forgotten the question many nights; have certainly fallen asleep before the 6-word question could be framed.  But having set my intention almost a year ago, I find the question now comes unbidden, sometimes stirring me out of that pre-sleep twilight as I doze off.  There were things to be thankful for, in the worst of days, in the deepest exhaustion. 

Let's warm up for tomorrow, when it may be easier to be thankful, or harder.  Two resources on Examen for your consideration, a book and a blog, may help in the journey.  But you don't need anything to toy with the question, as you flop into bed, or sit up late in a dark room with that one light on, the fire going out:  What are you most thankful for today?    

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